Garlic is a plant in the Allium (onion) family. It is closely related to onions, shallots and leeks. Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. It is native to central Asia and has been grown for over 5000 years.
Here are 15 things you should know about garlic:
1. Garlic is highly nutritious but has very few calories.
1 ounce (28 grams) serving of garlic has 42 calories but contains:
- Manganese: 23% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA).
- Vitamin B6: 17% of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 15% of the RDA.
- Selenium: 6% of the RDA.
- Fiber: 1 gram.
- Decent amounts of Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Iron and Vitamin B1.
- Trace amounts of other nutrients
2. Eating garlic lowers blood pressure. Cardiovascular diseases remain the world’s biggest killer. These diseases, like heart attacks and stroke are driven by high blood pressure. However, sulphur-containing compounds in garlic help dilate blood vessels and help to keep blood pressure under control.
3. Garlic improves cholesterol levels. Garlic could lower total and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in persons with high cholesterol. Intake of garlic may lower the risk of heart disease in such persons.
4. Garlic supplementation could control obesity. Research suggests that garlic consumption may actually help to regulate the number of fat cells that get formed in the body.
5. Garlic contains antioxidants that protect the body against cell damage and ageing. Vitamin C, which is well contained in garlic, serves as the body’s primary antioxidant in all aqueous areas, such as the bloodstream, where LDL cholesterol is protected from oxidation. The oxidized form of LDL cholesterol initiates damage to walls of blood vessels. Therefore reducing the levels of oxidizing free radicals in the bloodstream helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases.
6. Garlic is an anti-inflammatory agent. Garlic possesses compounds that are capable of inhibiting the activity of inflammatory messenger molecules. The exact anti-inflammatory mechanisms are not yet clear, even though it reduces the release of inflammatory messaging molecules.
7. Garlic has anti-coagulant properties. Ajoene, a disulfide found in garlic, has been shown to prevent blood platelets from becoming too sticky. This lowers the risk of having platelets clumping together and forming a clot.
8. Consumption of garlic boosts the function of the immune system. Taking garlic helps to prevent and reduce the severity of common illnesses like flu and common cold. One large 12-week study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63 percent compared with placebo.
9. Garlic has antimicrobial properties. Applying a gel containing 0.6% of garlic’s ajoene is effective against ringworm and jock itch whereas 1% of this chemical could be used to treat athlete’s foot. Early research suggests that applying garlic paste to affected areas in the mouth can increase the rate of healing in people with oral thrush (oral candidiasis). Recent research has shown that crushed fresh garlic could help to prevent infection by Pseudomonas aeruginosa in burn patients.
10. Garlic is a natural anticancer agent. One of the many sulphur-containing compounds in garlic has been shown to inhibit the formation of carcinogens in the body. High intake of garlic has been found to lower the risk of all cancers except prostate and breast cancers.
11. Topical application of garlic could cause serious burns to the skin. Care must be taken for this use. The use of raw garlic on skin for cosmetic purposes is discouraged.
12. Garlic could interact with drugs. It may interact with warfarin, antiplatelets, saquinavir, antihypertensives, calcium channel blockers, quinolone family of antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin, and hypoglycemic drugs, as well as other medications.
13. Garlic is popularly known for causing bad breath (halitosis), as well as giving sweat a pungent “garlicky” smell. Studies have shown that sipping milk whilst consuming garlic can significantly neutralize the bad breath.
14. High intake of garlic could cause a bleeding disorder. Consumption of garlic must be stopped 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery. Patients taking anticoagulant medication are cautioned against consuming garlic.
15. Garlic is possibly unsafe when used in medicinal amounts during pregnancy and when breast-feeding. There is not enough reliable information about the safety of medicinal doses of garlic during pregnancy and when breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid its use.
Block, E. (2010). Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science. Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 0-85404-190-7.
Brown DG, Wilkerson EC, Love WE (March 2015). “A review of traditional and novel oral anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy for dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons”. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 72 (3): 524–34.
Drinking a glass of milk can stop garlic breath. BBC News. August 31, 2010. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
Effect of garlic on serum lipids: an updated meta-analysis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23590705
Garlic as a lipid lowering agent–a meta-analysis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8169881
Hogg, Jennifer (December 13, 2002). Garlic Supplements. Complementary Medicines Summary. UK Medicines Information, National Health Service. Retrieved July 7, 2007.
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Institutes of Health. 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
Nutrition Facts: Raw Garlic. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2446/2
Preventing the common cold with a garlic supplement: a double-blind, placebo-controlled survey. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11697022
Vitamins & Supplements: Garlic. www.webmd.com